September 19, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Family Research Council shooter sentenced to 25 years
FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

A lone gunman opened fire inside the Family Research Council headquarters last year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia man who pleaded guilty to shooting a security guard in the arm at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington last year in a foiled attempt to commit a mass killing of FRC employees was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 29, told the FBI shortly after his arrest that he targeted the FRC because of its positions opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage. He pleaded guilty in February to committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition.

Corkins worked for several months in 2012 as a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT Community Center, but neither law enforcement authorities nor D.C. Center officials have disclosed whether Corkins is gay.

D.C. police and the FBI, which investigated the case, have credited security guard and FRC building manager Leonardo Johnson with preventing Corkins from carrying out his stated plan to kill as many people as possible at the FRC building.

In what authorities have called an act of heroism, Johnson, 47, wrestled Corkins to the floor in the lobby of the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., and disarmed him after Corkins fired three shots, one of which struck Johnson in the arm. Authorities said Johnson’s action prevented Corkins from gaining access to the upper floors of the building where about 80 employees were working.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office called for a sentence of 45 years while Corkins’ attorney, citing Corkins’ history of mental illness, asked for a sentence of 11 and a half years.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II (Photo courtesy the U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said his sentence of 25 years took into consideration Corkins’ “horrific” action as well as mitigating factors such as his mental illness and his decision to take responsibility for his behavior.

Roberts told Corkins his stated intent to kill people to advance his political beliefs in support of gay rights would have the opposite effect. He praised others seeking to advance a political cause, including gay rights, who use peaceful means to promote such a cause.

“When the president spoke up it changed minds,” he said in referring to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

“Killing human beings is not political activism. It’s criminal behavior,” Roberts said.

Just before Roberts handed down his sentence Johnson and FRC president Tony Perkins addressed the court to give their recommendations on the sentencing.

Johnson turned toward Corkins and said he forgave him for what he did but said he would never forget the harm Corkins inflicted on him and the negative impact it has had on his family.

After the sentencing hearing Johnson told reporters outside the courthouse that once he wrestled the gun from Corkins and feared that Corkins might still attempt to attack him he chose not to shoot Corkins “because God told me not to do it.”

Within minutes, D.C. police arrived on the scene and took Corkins into custody. He has remained in jail since the time of his arrest at the scene of the incident on Aug. 15, 2012.

At the time of his arrest, police and FBI agents found a stash of ammunition in Corkins’ backpack along with about 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Corkins later told FBI agents he planned to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the FRC employees he planned to kill as a form of retaliation against the statements by the Chick-fil-A company’s owner opposing same-sex marriage.

Perkins told the court that Corkins and his plan to kill as many FRC staff members as possible put the staff “in the crosshairs of a political assassin” and has kept the organization and its employees in a state of fear.

“Life for all of us has changed,” he said.

Leo Johnson, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, Values Voter Summit

Leonardo Johnson with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Perkins reiterated statements he has made in the past that Corkins was instigated, at least in part, to target FRC by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He cited the Center’s decision to identify FRC as a hate group because of its anti-gay advocacy work.

Officials with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, have said their classification of FRC as a hate group is based on its attempt to disparage and demean gay people by linking them and homosexuality to pedophilia. The officials have said the ‘hate’ label is not based on FRC’s opposition to gay rights legislation or its political beliefs.

In his own statement at the sentencing hearing, Corkins apologized to Johnson and FRC, saying he still disagrees with the organization’s positions.

“I realize violence for political reasons is wrong,” he said.

In a 20-minute multi-media presentation in the courtroom, which included the showing of slides and video footage of Corkins, prosecutors argued that Corkins carried out a clearly orchestrated plan to commit mass murder in the days before the FRC shooting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin, one of the two prosecutors working on the case, disputed defense attorney David Bos’s assertion that Corkins was not in full control of his behavior based on his diagnoses of having “major depressive disorder with psychotic features.”

Bos argued that Corkins was being treated with prescription drugs that effectively eliminated symptoms of his mental illness but Corkins failed to take his medication on the day before the FRC shooting incident.

Martin argued that in the week or so before the shooting, Corkins purchased a pistol and ammunition at a Virginia gun store, returned to the store to practice his shooting technique, purchased the sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, and even traveled to the FRC building a few days before the incident to see if he could gain entrance as part of a “rehearsal” of his plans.

Martin pointed to one of the slides projected on a large screen in the courtroom that stated, “He knows what he was doing…The treatment he received was working. And it helped him execute his plan.”

National and local LGBT rights organizations, including the D.C. LGBT Center, issued statements at the time of the shooting condemning Corkins’ actions and wishing Johnson a speedy recovery from his injury.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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